Austin Gramps is a registered nurse who works within the emergency department at Norton Audubon. She said knowing how to lighten helps her maintain a good attitude, even in years such as this.

She resides in St. Matthews with her senior dog, Toby. Due to the pandemic, she's quit a lot of what she usually turns to for relaxation: eating at restaurants, live music shows, traveling. Like so many, Gramps has adjusted to life under COVID – with the added pressure of treating patients who may have it.

“It’s still emotionally taxing now, because, like, there’s no social life anymore,” she said. “All I do is start working. And I go home and either do assignment work, or watch television, that is depressing.”

89.3 WFPL News Louisville @ Austin Gramps, An ER Nurse Who Still Loves The task

Along with work, Gramps is earning a master's in public health from Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Courses are virtual, but she's still waiting to determine if she will complete residency programs either online or in-person, hopefully soon.

She also does what she can to stay active, like working out virtually together with her sister over Zoom.

“I think it’s more anxiety, and how to calm myself, since i still love my job,” Gramps said of coping throughout the pandemic. “But it’s more, I’m anxious in your own home. Like, I don’t get sound advice with the energy.”

But at work, Gramps said situations are much improved when compared to early days from the pandemic. Initially, she found the constantly-changing guidelines and protocols frustrating.

“I was morning shift. And so in one day to another, it might change. Night shift would be doing one thing, and also the day shift could be doing something else,” she said.

She said one of the biggest challenges was coping with visitors. Patients struggled with being alone, yet later, when visitors were allowed, they weren't always cautious enough.

“I remember there is this one visitor which had like the 'Keep Everybody Safe' mask, and he been with them under his chin,” she said, laughing. “I was like, 'Thanks, guy!'”

This month, the first COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out, with frontline workers like Gramps one of the initial batch of recipients in Kentucky. Gramps expects details soon about her very own vaccination, and she intends to take the opportunity.

But Gramps also said she gets hospital workers like her have the benefit of high-quality personal protective gear and extremely understanding how to keep themselves safe.

“I believe that another frontline workers, EMS that have to enter in the horrible situations and pick these folks up, they can have it. Postal workers, poor people people at the grocery stores that have to cope with everything. And then just the people out there that need it,” she said.

To her, getting the vaccine to the general public sooner could give a better feeling of how effective it will likely be on the population level – since the coronavirus is spreading so fast between people carrying out your regular lives.

Gramps recalled this spring, when the uncertainty being more than now, and people were scared to go to the hospital. They'd put off moving in for non-COVID issues and end up getting sicker.

“And everyone’s sicker in Kentucky. their diabetes, hypertension, cardiac illnesses, their renal function,” she said. “So people come in sick already.”

It was around that time that she posted a sizable sign in her front window, identifying herself towards the neighborhood as an emergency room nurse and thanking neighbors for his or her support. She said she felt really supported..

“I had a meal on my back porch (eventually), and I didn’t know who left it. And that i was debating whether or not to eat it,” she said. “But I had been like, I didn’t have food also it looked so great. It was like a Salisbury steak, potatoes.”

She ate it.

It ended up being from her neighbor, Roger. He sent more meals. Plus, his son would bring in her garbage cans, and they might move her package deliveries to her back porch if she wasn't home.

“I work most Mondays, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and that i don’t determine if they simply don’t such as the fact my garbage cans are out all day long or they’re just being nice. Regardless, I be thankful,” she said.

Gramps lives not even close to family. These little kindnesses mean a great deal to her.

“They’re just, like, the mother and father that I’m not living with,” she said. “They’re taking care of me.”

Even although the vaccines give some hope of the pandemic's end, she remains committed to looking out for Louisville patients – whether they're suffering from injuries, chronic disease or COVID. She said it's what she subscribed to.

Gramps is looking forward, yet clearly aware that the battle isn't over. Outside her door, she illuminates green lights every night honoring Kentuckians lost to the coronavirus.